Posts Tagged ‘Curiously Random’

Back from Tour … Stay Tuned

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

By Alan Gilbert

As much as I enjoy putting my thoughts down in writing and sharing them here, in my blog, that is just not going to happen today. On Friday I returned from a very satisfying, very exciting, very busy tour, and although there is much about the time I spent in Europe that I’d like to write about, I just haven’t the time this week. I am already in rehearsals for this week’s performances of Mendelssohn’s Elijah

I promise not to let this become a habit, and that my next posting will be more thoughtful than this one.

Thanks for understanding!

On Tour(ing)

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

By Alan Gilbert

We are in Ljubljana, the second stop on our European tour. It should have been the third country, but what would have been the Orchestra’s first trip to the Republic of Georgia was cancelled abruptly a few weeks ago by the presenters – that is to say, by the government of Georgia. I have not heard a convincing justification for this, and my friend Lisa Batiashvili, the brilliant Georgian violinist who was to have been the soloist in the planned concerts, and who was instrumental, in every way, in paving the way for our putative visit, is baffled as well. She is also embarrassed, and deeply disappointed that her efforts to bring the New York Philharmonic to her home country ended so sadly. I know from speaking with her of her love of her country, and how much she would like to help shape and enrich its musical life. Who knows now when those noble impulses will be able to come to fruition?
Since the Philharmonic had some unexpected extra days in New York City, we were able to add a non-subscription concert to our schedule. It was extremely fortunate that Pinchas Zukerman was available to give another performance of the Brahms Violin Concerto, which he played with us the week before. Since we were rehearsing the Academic Festival Overture for the tour, we were able to create an all-Brahms program that was filled out by the Fourth Symphony (another tour piece). Non-subscription concerts have to be sold from the ground up, obviously, and this one was only announced two weeks before it happened. It was therefore especially exciting that the concert sold out, and there was a real sense of event in the hall that evening. The Orchestra played unbelievably, and those of us onstage felt a palpable connection with the audience, who responded with real warmth. It was a great send-off for our tour.

The first concert of the tour happened on Sunday, in Belgrade. We were the closing event of Bemus, a two-week-long festival the city hosts. We played in the enormous Sava Center (seating capacity close to 4,000!), which was literally packed to the rafters. The previous night I had had dinner with U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Serbia Mary Burce Warlick and some of her staff, and they told us that they had never heard of the hall being sold out, explaining that usually the upper section is not even opened. And this, when the ticket prices were apparently 20 times what concerts tend to cost in Belgrade! It appears that there was a kind of frenzied excitement surrounding the orchestra’s visit. Part of this may have been the fact that it was actually a return visit: Leonard Bernstein brought the Philharmonic to Belgrade on the legendary round-the-world tour of 1959. One of the presenters made us a gift of an original program book and ticket stub from that concert – items that will be treasured additions to the Philharmonic Archives.
Sunday’s concert itself was a big success, and it felt appropriate to be able to play Bernstein’s “Lonely Town” as an encore. There was a sigh of recognition from the audience when I announced the piece – a sign of a connection between an American orchestra and an audience that would have been practically unimaginable five years ago, and absolutely impossible only ten years ago. It was a good feeling.

(For more information on Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic, visit

Arts and Krafts

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

By Alan Gilbert

One thing about great art is its ability to speak to a wide spectrum of humanity, and its uncanny knack for getting people with widely differing outlooks to see what they want to see in the work. This week Kraft, Magnus Lindberg’s landmark piece from 1985, has proven itself as a great work of art, as evidenced by the power and conviction of the responses it has provoked, responses I should say that have largely left the middle ground empty. I hasten to add that the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive.

Yes, some people walked out, but the real majority stayed, and their acclamation seemed to be congratulating us not only on the performance, but on our decision to offer this piece. This was not some fringe crowd: these were our beloved subscribers. Over the weekend I was stopped numerous times on the street by people who had heard the Philharmonic perform Kraft – all of them thanked me for providing this artistic experience for New York City. On Sunday, when I was in Citarella on the Upper West Side, a white-haired woman tapped me on the shoulder and said that she had heard Friday’s concert. I admit that I half expected a complaint, but was I wrong! She said that she has been a longtime subscriber, that she loves the New York Philharmonic, and that she had never had such an exciting experience at the Philharmonic as the one that Kraft had provided. Who would have guessed? She then mentioned that she was looking forward to our performance of Brahms next Saturday. Then there was the guy who stopped me when my kids were scootering through the park, who told me how happy he was to have experienced Kraft. He said that he wasn’t sure that he cared to hear the piece again, but that he was grateful to the Philharmonic for giving him the chance to get to know the work. He went on to thank me for making this orchestra culturally relevant again. What a perfect response to the work!

I write all this not to crow about our success, but to thank people for following us on this journey of musical exploration, for understanding what we are about as an arts organization. There’s no one who loves the music of Haydn and Brahms (to name only two) more than I do, and I never get tired of conducting or listening to Beethoven symphonies. But art is not meant only to be safe and predictable: I dare say that one of the things that made Kraft thrilling for so many was the fact that they had no idea that it would speak to them as it did.

The New York Philharmonic has long been one of the world’s greatest orchestras, and my job as Music Director is to preserve and build on this legacy. This means that we will continue to play the widest range of orchestral repertoire as well as it can be played, while at the same time taking risks, striving to add to New York City’s artistic landscape in a way that places this Orchestra squarely at the center of cultural and intellectual discourse.

(For more information on Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic, visit